Guest Blogging

Molly Heller, very, vary December 2nd

I was invited to write a guest blog for Life as a Modern Dancer. You can check it out here.


October 14th, “The Bridge Project: Ten Artists Respond to Locus”

Produced by Hope Mohr Dance

As I sit to write a response to Mohr’s latest Bridge Project, I can’t help but think back to my experiences with her 2015 Bridge Project: Rewriting Dance. I attended the Jeanine Durning workshop and afterward saw Talk the Walk: Local Artists at the Intersection of Language and Choreographic Thinking. My response was one of felt community: “I felt attended to as an audience member. “The whole” resonated much more than the individual parts.” I had a similar response to Ten Artists Respond to Locus; “the whole” resonated more than the parts.  

Mohr states in her notes that “The purpose of Ten Artists Response to Locus is not to create nostalgia, but rather to create a space for cultural exchange. This evening does not try to force a seamless synthesis among the responses to Locus. Instead, this evening offers a series of conversations about form and cultural transmission. Another layer of transmission happens now – between the artists and you.”

What was transmitted between the artists and me? The 11 pieces (some of them involved multiple artists) on the program seemed to quickly move past. My notes are a blur of words, sketches, and numbers. I wanted the evening to slow down so I could maybe have a conversation with each artist not so much to know the minutiae and nuance of thinking behind each piece, but to have a genuine exchange of perspective and insight. The post-show conversation was too brief, which also seemed to reflect the hurried pacing of the evening. 

That said, I can appreciate how Mohr wanted to cultivate a particular mood in space and with time. She placed  Locus (the evening’s reference point, a solo) second on the program and was danced again by another dancer in the lobby at intermission. The stage was square and the audience sat around it, which created a box-like container clearly reflecting the square in which Locus is usually danced. From this, I could sense that we might be part of the performance.  As the evening unfolded, I could feel the attentive vibrations emanating into the performance space as if collectively we were trying to find Locus references in each of the evening’s performances. There was a level of felt engagement, an effort to facilitate the cultural exchange Mohr was asking for.


Although the event demands to be read as a whole, two pieces stood out.  The first, quarter by Larry Arrington, was stunning.  Holding space and time, Arrington stood on a rock with one foot with arms pushing upwards, rippling toward the sky. I didn’t want this part of the dance to end.  It clearly reflected how the dance was “informed by the crisis of border/map/territory that is is an ongoing social and economic cataclysm on the surface of this planet.” These words came from the statement Arrington provided as an insert to the program. As I watched, enthralled by Arrington’s focus, I found myself thinking about the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. quarter could be required “reading” for anyone studying this protest. The second piece, per[mute]ing by Peiling Kao was an embodiment of thought and thinking. I’ve been watching Kao dance for years and she always takes command of the choreography and stage with grace and strength. Without clearly referencing Locus (there was no obvious white square for example), her gestures and movement suggested a directional focus of points in space that were connected to each other somehow – a lineage of sorts. A week or so after the performance, Kao posted a blog post on her thinking and practice behind the piece. Looking back, I could sense this in how Kao was able let go of Locus and yet stay in contact with it through her own vocabulary (and history).

To close, I want to say that I appreciate the challenge to write about a whole evening of 10 different artists and their thinking-dancing. I would like to include more discourse from and with the 10 artists. I would like to sit down with Mohr and ask more about Locus and Brown’s legacy and why it seems relevant to us at this particular moment – why might this  matter beyond the world of dance history and legacy?  

August 11th, “Motion Studies

Choreography by Katie Faulkner

It’s been a while.

After some time away, I’m back to regular programming.  I decided to kick off my return by watching Katie Faulkner’s newest piece in collaboration with Cedric Kiefer (of Berlin-based onformative).  Honestly, I’m not sure what to call the piece as the documentation provided by Dolby on the internet and onsite referred to the work by three different names: Kinesthetics, Collide, and Motion Studies.  I’m still not sure what to make of this terministic stickiness. 

File_000 (22)

The evening began with a discussion between Faulkner and Kiefer moderated by Julie Phelps of CounterPulse.  I learned that Kiefer generated the visual display that “performed” on the light ribbon screen by analyzing dance archives, collecting data from them, and then visualizing movements from the data.  This same data were used to create the sound score that accompanied the visual.  Faulkner then choreographed a “response” to the visualized data.  Phelps called this “closing the loop“ (dance – data – sound – dance).  Faulkner’s two dancers moved alongside and sometimes beneath the ribbon screen in under 10 minutes.  When asked about the process for creating the work, Faulkner stated that she started with improvised dancing that responded to or was inspired by the dynamics of the visual created by Kiefer.  What struck me the most was how deeply human and humanizing the movement felt.  I’m not sure if this “closed the loop.” But I am sure that Faulkner’s choreography not only brought moving bodies into an otherwise hyper-technologized space but also human experience and perspective.  There was no story or message, but there were two bodies reminding me that dance doesn’t always need a message for it to matter.

May 6th, “Program 8: Onegin”

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by John Cranko

Last One

This was my fourth trip to see the San Francisco Ballet this season and my only full-length ballet.  I could feel the storytelling of the Pushkin narrative poem and found myself connecting with the drama as it unfolded out of the choreography.  I think the last lines of the program notes best capture my experience: “it is a joy to watch.”  Even so, this dance doesn’t inspire me to write.  I could write about the quality of dancing, sets, or costumes.  I could write about the choreography or music.  There just isn’t much say.  But I do think there is something to say about San Francisco Ballet now that the season is over.  That, however, will wait until later.   




April 14th, “Program 6″

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Helgi Tomasson, Alexi Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon



This is the most I’ve seen of a San Francisco Ballet season since moving here in 2007 – 4 so far and 1 left to go.  Again, a mixed repertory program, and again odd programming.  These three pieces (Prisim, Seven Sonatas, and Rush) were very similar, almost too similar.  The program notes highlighted their differences in choreographic approaches, musical choices, and moods, but these differences didn’t provide enough differentiation between the three dances (for me).  Yes, I had a favorite, but it doesn’t really matter as I am not inspired to write about either of these dances.  Yes, there was good dancing, but there usually is good dancing with the San Francisco Ballet. I don’t mind spending time in the beauty of a dance.  I do mind, however, when that is all there is again, and again.  What is there to write or think about?

After I saw Program 2 in February, (Rubies (Balanchine), Drink to me with Thine Eyes (Morris), and Fearless Creatures (Scarlett), I wrote it was a pleasant surprise, but that I wanted more fearless.  

I am still waiting.